Now that the tourist hordes are back, many popular Balinese beach destinations, including Seminyak, Canggu and Nusa Dua, are teeming. Interestingly, the island’s cultural hub, Ubud, located among the central hills of the island is, in contrast, experiencing a slight thinning of crowds – in a good way.
On a recent return trip to Ubud, my first since the pandemic, I observed that it was significantly less crowded compared with its heyday some years ago. Some locals attribute this to the digital nomads migrating to Canggu, now that things have opened up.
Whatever the reason, the streets were indeed less packed with traffic and a lot easier to navigate on foot, although it is advisable to keep an eye out for scooters whizzing by. So, this is an ideal time to be immersed in the town’s heritage, whether it is visiting the Ubud palace or attending the yoga or meditation classes that the destination is famous for.
For those who seek material pleasures, there are multiple clothing, homeware and curio stores lining the narrow streets; as well as a cornucopia of Bali’s most popular restaurants, including Locavore, Mozaic and Honey & Smoke, to dine at.
For my two-night stay, I chose The Villas at Bisma Eight, the latest extension to boutique hotel Bisma Eight, for its unbeatable central location.
Co-founded by Mr Suraj Melwani, a Singapore permanent resident who owns clothing brand Sifr and who previously launched a fashion boutique in Singapore, the property is located in Jalan Bisma, a quieter street just a stone’s throw from the town’s main activity hub.
The original hotel, also situated along this street, features a modern Balinese design ethos that generously incorporates locally sourced materials, such as timber and terracotta. This philosophy is echoed in The Villas, which launched in 2019, shortly before the pandemic brought global travel to a standstill.
The 12-key property comprises one- and two-bedroom villas, for those who need more space compared with a boutique hotel room. They are set around a tranquil courtyard and organic garden, providing respite from the hustle and bustle of town.
My 158 sq m one-bedroom villa is designed to encourage indoor-outdoor living. Its ground-floor living area has full-length glass sliding doors that open directly to a generously sized private pool and garden.
Unfortunately, it was the monsoon season when I visited, so I hardly had the opportunity for a dip. Nevertheless, it still felt calming to nurse my morning coffee while gazing out at the water.
Indeed, the stylish light-filled living room encourages one to linger – and perhaps host a guest or two – with its carefully thought out features, including a kitchenette, a wine fridge and even a powder room. There is also a Breville espresso maker topped up with freshly roasted beans.
I especially enjoyed the large timber dining table for its homey appeal – it was the perfect setting for a leisurely in-room afternoon tea prepared by the hotel’s restaurant, Embers.
Tip: The mixologists at Embers are skilled at crafting creative yet well-balanced cocktails, so stop by for a pre-dinner aperitif or a nightcap.
On the second floor of the villa, the soothing earthy tones and natural-dyed bedlinens in the bedroom will be familiar to guests of the original hotel.
The spacious bathrooms also offer another Bisma Eight hallmark – oversized Ubud-assembled Japanese soaking tubs made of Canadian cedarwood that infuse the space with a delightful fragrance.
As with other experience-focused resorts these days, The Villas at Bisma Eight offers guests a range of activities. These include cocktail-making classes and a 30-minute photography session for those who are hankering after a picture-perfect Instagram snap.
What I especially enjoyed were the morning yoga sessions conducted by a local Balinese instructor. The beginner-friendly class I attended was a break from my usual routine of spin classes and high-intensity interval training.
It also gave me the headspace to still my mind and enjoy being in the moment in a destination that many have long travelled to in search of inner peace.
The Villas at Bisma Eight
Where: Jalan Bisma, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia 80571
Rooms: 10 158 sq m one-bedroom villas and two 260 sq m two-bedroom villas
Rates: A one-bedroom villa starts at $462 a night in March and $543 in April
- A former Straits Times journalist, Karen Tee is now a freelance lifestyle and travel writer. She often finds herself shopping and eating too much whenever she visits Ubud.
- Suite Life is a series on destination hotels and their locales.
- This trip was partially hosted by The Villas at Bisma Eight.